“The Boys of Kilmichael”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1978 (OCanainn)
Keywords: rebellion battle Ireland patriotic IRA
Found in: Ireland


When honouring "the martyrs who have long since died," remember the boys of Kilmichael who "conquered the red white and blue." The Tans left Macroom November 28 with two Crossley tenders and were wiped out by the Column. The Column returned to Glenure.


OCanainn: "At Kilmichael, West Cork's Flying Column under Commander Tom Barry, ambushed a group of Auxiliaries - a force introduced by the British some three months previously."

Kilmichael and Macroom are in County Cork. - BS

Robert Kee in _Ourselves Alone_, being Volume III of _The Green Flag_, pp. 120-121, describes this event (and quotes am accurate version of this song which uses language coarse enough that he expurgated it):

"Two lorry-loads of the company of Auxiliaries stationed at Macroom Castle ran into a well-laid ambush position prepared by Tom Barry an the West Cork Flying Column on a lonely site of bogland and rocks near Kilmichael. It was the Auxiliaries' first major engagement and a terrible one.

"After a savage fight at close quarters in which three IRA were killed and, according to Barry, the Auxiliaries made use of the notorious 'false surrender' tactics, the entire convoy as wiped out, and seventeen of the eighteen Auxiliaries were killed. The eighteenth was so severely wounded that he was in hospital for long afterwards. Some of the Auxiliaries' bodies were afterwards found to have wounds inflicted after death and the first officer on the scene after the fight said that although he had seen thousands of men lying dead in the course of the war, he had never before seen such an appalling sight as his eyes met there."

Calton Younger has a stronger stomach for atrocity. In _Ireland's Civil War_, pp. 13-14, he writes:

"Tom Barry set up his ambush, not in a place he would have chosen, but one dictated by circumstances, a little to the south of Kilmichael on the road to Gleann. It is treacherous, eerie country, where heather grows sparsely on the bogland and the only cover is provided by outcrops of gaunt rock. Barry's plan was brilliantly conceived an his column, only one or two of whom ha fired a shot in anger, matched with courage his inspiration.

"Eighteen Auxiliaries in two lorries died that day. Some need not have died but their own treachery recoiled upon them. Crying surrender, they fired again when some of the column showed themselves. Barry was merciless then and his men did not let up until every one of the enemy was dead. An when the morale of his own men showed signs of cracking, he drilled them in the light of the burning lorries until discipline gripped again. Three men he had lost, two of them because of the surrender trick."

Younger does not supply a citation for his information, I suspect Barry's _Guerilla Days in Ireland_. Kee also examined Barry's book, but took additional information from the _Irish Times_ (which documented the mutilations the Auxiliaries suffered after death) and other sources. It will be evident that all eyewitness testimony was from Barry's side. Given Barry's overall record, I don't think this can be trusted very far, particularly as regards the false surrender. - RBW

Historical references

Cross references


  1. OCanainn, pp. 50-51,121-122, "The Boys of Kilmichael" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, OCan050